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Tarver earns redemption, respect in rematch

LAS VEGAS -- Roy Jones Jr. was flat on his back in Antonio Tarver's corner. A second
earlier in the second round of their WBC light heavyweight title fight,
Tarver countered a missed right hand from Jones with a short overhand left
that landed square on the four-division champion's jaw.

Jones went limp and fell backward to the canvas, slamming his head where
Tarver's stool sat in-between rounds. Jones had been beaten only once in 50 previous fights -- and that was on a disqualification. To see him knocked silly by one punch
left the crowd of 10,000 at the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino on their feet, roaring in unison.

Nine seconds later Jones stumbled to his feet and took a few steps on shaky
legs, needing the ropes to keep him upright. Referee Jay Nady took one look
in his eyes and wisely waved the contest off at the 1:41 mark of the second
round.

Some in the crowd shrieked in horror. Some cheered wildly. Many just
stood in disbelief, their jaws wide open.

It was as sudden as it was shocking.

But neither fighter sounded surprised about the outcome.

Jones, now 49-2 (38), seemed to take the first knockout loss of his professional career in
stride, telling HBO's Larry Merchant that it was a "good shot" that Tarver
landed. Tarver, now 22-2 (18), took it one step further, telling Merchant,
"It was a perfect punch."

"Overhand left right on the kisser," Tarver said. "It was
beautiful."

Even future hall-of-fame fighters with all-time great skills and talent will
drop like the most mediocre of journeymen if they are caught just right.

"I was knocked out once in the amateurs," Jones told Merchant. "It happens
to the best of us."

Especially when they begin to get old. Both Jones and Tarver are 35 years
old. But while Tarver turned pro in 1997, Jones joined the paid ranks in
1989. And 15 years is a long time in boxing.

But the way Jones looked in the first round, one would think that he had at
least another five good years of prize fighting in him. Even during the
opening 30 seconds of the first round when neither fighter threw a punch,
Jones seemed to control the tempo of the bout.

Despite all of the bold
talking Tarver did leading up to the fight, the rangy southpaw seemed
nervous and unsure of himself. It was Jones who got off first and often in
the remaining two minutes of round one, dictating the pace of the bout,
stalking a retreating Tarver around the ring and establishing his will over
his nemesis.

But in the second round, Tarver stood his ground in the center of the ring
and began to establish his jab. It was a good move because it forced Jones
to circle and backpedal, waiting for the opportune moment to unleash a
lightening-bolt counter punch. Jones threw a right hand that caused the taller fighter
to crouch down. Tarver came out of the crouch with an overhand left
that caught Jones flush on the side of his face.

Who would have thought that it would be
Tarver who would land the KO strike?

Tarver, that's who.

"He missed and I turned (the left) over perfectly and caught him on the
kisser," Tarver said after the fight. "I missed with my jab, but I beat him
to the punch with a beautiful overhand left.

"Roy Jones came out strong, but I stayed confident and composed. I had a
good defense. I saw everything coming. I knew it was my time."

Ringside punch stats showed Jones landed 12 of 42 punches, while
Tarver landed only seven of 54. It was the last of those seven punches,
though, that shocked the boxing world.

It is indeed Tarver's time, but after knocking out the No. 1 pound-for-pound
fighter in the world, his options are surprisingly limited. As far as
making big money, Tarver can go two routes -- fight Jones in a rubbermatch
or jump to heavyweight, something Jones himself has hinted he'll do.

"I can fight Tarver again or I can fight heavyweights," said Jones, who also
hinted at retirement. "I am not sure what I am going to. If I don't have the
same interest and enjoyment (in fighting) I always do, then I will stop."

Jones said he might
move back to heavyweight for possible fights against Mike Tyson or
Vitali Klitschko.

In their first fight, Tarver fought Jones to a virtual standstill in the
eyes of most ringside observers, though he lost a somewhat controversial
majority decision. Tonight Tarver starched the ring legend with one punch.
Many question if Jones really wants to face his nemesis a third time.

"It takes a great fighter to beat a great fighter," Tarver said. "I will
fight anyone, including heavyweights, for the money."

For Tarver, who recently filed for
bankruptcy, the $2 million purse was his biggest payday of a pro
career that began after he won a bronze medal in the 1996 Olympics. He also earned a $100,000 bonus that promotor Don King later paid him, according to the Washington Post.

Jones earned $6 million for a fight.

King, who promoted the rematch and has three heavyweight title holders
(Chris Byrd, John Ruiz and Lamon Brewster) under contract, said, "Antonio is
certainly a candidate for a heavyweight fight."

But for now, Tarver says he just wants to soak in his tremendous victory.

"It has been so long," said Tarver, who overcame drug addiction, promotional
disputes, a set-back loss and scores of naysayers to earn his opportunities
with Jones. "I never gave up. I never gave up on my dream. I knew the steps
to take to get here. I knew I couldn't be denied."

King was certainly impressed.

"He beat Superman tonight," the promoter said. "It was shock and amazement.
He made this fight. This young man shocked everyone."

Everyone but himself.

Undercard Bouts

Fighting only six weeks after nearly beating undisputed
welterweight champ Cory Spinks, Zab Judah nearly lost a 12-round decision. Judah, now 31-2
(22), narrowly out-pointed Rafael Pineda by split scores of 114-113,
115-112 and 112-115.

If not for scoring a knockdown in the seventh, Judah might have lost a
split decision or had to settle for a draw. After controlling the
opening rounds with his jab and footwork, Judah seemed to lose his
concentration, doing more clowning than punching in the middle rounds.

In the seventh Pineda landed two straight rights, causing Judah to land a
hook-cross combination that hurt the older man. Judah tossed Pineda to the
canvas when the Colombian atempted to hold, and Pineda kicked him for it.

Judah got mad, then he got even, landing a left uppercut and a hook-cross
combo that officially put Pineda down. Judah punished Pineda for the
remainer of the round, but was not able to finish him.

Judah took off the next round and allowed the tough old vet to
work his way back into the fight. Judah controlled the action in the ninth,
but stopped punching in rounds 10 and 11. He flurried briefly in the 12th,
but seemed to be bothered by a cramping right calf muscle.

"I caught a cramp behind my right leg at the end of the 10th round," said
Judah. "I felt like I could have taken him out at any time."

Maybe so, but it didn't happen because he didn't take the initiative.
Pineda, now 38-6 (31), felt that he was robbed. Most ringside observers
didn't bother to score the fight because aside from the seventh round, it
was an uneventful 12-round welterweight contest.

"It was a long and dreary fight on a long and dreary undercard," quipped
veteran scribe Michael Katz from ringside.

Undefeated heavyweight fringe contender Gerald Nobles got up from a
second-round flash knockdown to improve to 23-0 (18) with a ninth-round
technical stoppage of former WBA title holder Bruce Seldon, who dropped to
35-5 (31).

Another undefeated heavyweight fringe contender, Owen Beck, also got up from
a knockdown to stop his opponent. Beck, now 22-0 (16), stopped Byron Polley
in the first round of their eight-rounder after Polley, now 14-4 (6),
dropped him.

Heavyweight veteran Larry Donald out-pointed veteran journeyman Sedrick
Fields over 10 rounds. Donald improved to 40-3-2 (23). Fields dropped to
21-23-1 (15).

IBF 108-pound titlist Victor Burgos survived a flash knockdown in the fourth
round of his bout vs. former titlist Fahlan Sakkreein to improve to 37-13-3
(22) with a sixth-round stoppage. Burgos, of Mexico, said he was tripped in
the fourth and took care of business in the following two rounds. Sakkeerin,
of Thailand, dropped to 54-4-2 (23).

Undefeated light heavyweight contender Rico Hoye improved to 17-0 (14) with
a fourth-round stoppage of former title challenger Richard Hall. Hoye, who
is now the IBF's no. 1 contender, dropped Hall in the first round and
starched him with a right in the fourth. Hall dropped to 27-5 (25).

Russian junior middleweight contender Roman Karmazin improved to 33-1-1 (22)
by stopping veteran journeyman Jason Papillion in the third round of a
scheduled eight. Papillion, now 36-12-1 (24), should really consider doing
something else for a living.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.